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HealthSheets™

When You Have Addison Disease

You have been diagnosed with Addison disease. Your adrenal glands don’t make enough of the hormone cortisol. In some cases, the adrenal glands also don’t make enough of the hormones aldosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone. This disease is also called adrenal insufficiency or hypocortisolism. A flare-up is called an Addisonian crisis. Here’s what you can do to care for yourself.

Medicine instructions

  • Take all medicines for this disease exactly as directed. You will need to take replacement hormones for the rest of your life. Your medicine dose may need to be doubled or tripled if you are injured or become seriously ill. Ask your healthcare provider to explain when and why you might need to increase your steroid dose. 

  • You may need an emergency shot if you are in an accident or if you are unable to keep your oral hormone pill down because of vomiting. Carry a steroid injection kit for emergencies as directed by your healthcare provider. 

  • Before you have any type of surgery, tell your healthcare provider or surgeon that you have Addison disease. Your steroid dose may need to be increased.

  • Get a medical ID bracelet that says, “Addison disease: needs steroid medicine daily.” Wear it at all times, in case of emergency.

Preventing dehydration

It's very important to not become dehydrated. To do this:

  • Increase your salt intake if your healthcare provider advises you to. Examples of salty foods are canned soups and potato chips. Use table salt where needed.

  • Treat minor flare-ups by drinking more fluids and eating more salty foods.

Preventing Addisonian crisis

Addisonian crisis can occur if don’t have enough steroid hormone during stress or you are dehydrated. To prevent an Addisonian crisis:

  • Take your medicine regularly. You may need to increase your hormone medicine at times. Your healthcare provider should explain when you will need to do this. 

  • Do not get dehydrated. Drink plenty of fluids.

  • Stay healthy. Avoid crowds during cold and flu season.

  • Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands often.

  • Ask your healthcare provider about vaccines to help keep you healthy.

  • If you are ill, take extra medicine doses as directed by your medical team.

  • If you can't keep the medicine down because of vomiting, take the medicine by injection, as directed by your medical team.

Alerting your healthcare providers

Tell all of your healthcare providers that you have Addison disease. This includes your dentists, surgeons, and any specialists.

Follow-up care

Make a follow-up appointment as directed by our staff. Keep your regular follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the below:

  • Tiredness or weakness

  • Loss of appetite or weight loss

  • Dizziness when you stand up

  • Muscle aches

  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

  • Sharp pain in your lower back, abdomen, or legs

  • Infection of any kind

  • A fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as advised by your healthcare provider

© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.